"The time has come," the Walrus said...

"The time has come," the Walrus said, "To talk of many things."
Or, in my case: the time has come, my colleagues said, to stop ranting and go back to giving my fellow-translators some good, solid, specific tips.
Well, I don't plan to stop ranting altogether… Criticizing can be fun. Besides, I enjoy getting things off my chest and out of my system. But this blog aims to be useful.

So here's a quick recap of some annoying / awkward words and phrases that occur often in Hebrew texts, causing us all headaches. I don't have a solution to all; by all means, feel free to add your own solutions and suggestions.

Incidentally, there's plenty more where these came from... I kept it to a minimum this time because handling tables in html so that they come out looking decent on these pages is a huge pain in the neck. If you have any tips -- please send them my way!



אפשר, ניתן

"you can" usually works fine; better than "it is possible".


As part of… within… or just omit and reword sentence. Try to avoid "in the framework of…"


Shift Supervisor.


Though you'll see "Israel's periphery" in newspapers, I don't think it's right. I usually use "outlying regions" or something to that effect.

הטבה, הטבות

Does not always mean "benefits". It is used loosely in Hebrew in different contexts and often means a discount, special price, reduced rate.

לרכז, ריכוז

To coordinate the efforts on… to keep a list of, be responsible for, be in charge of, handle, coordinate.

לתת מענה

provide a solution, respond to, react to, deal with, come up with a plan


Stylish, stylized, uniquely designed, individually designed; and sometimes: hand crafted,
hand decorated. (Mostly it just means that someone actually put some thought into how it should look…)

You get what you pay for

Guess what – I found a couple of mistakes in a large ad in the J. Post, and I'm not going to complain about it!

You know why? Because I believe it's not humanly possible to do a good job under the circumstances imposed by the J. Post. I know. From personal experience.
The Lord (or someone) is my witness that I do not want to translate ads for the Post, nor for any other newspaper, for pennies. I don't think anyone should. But since I myself have been known to cave in, I can't go blaming anyone else.

Thus goes the story:
A few years ago, in-between jobs, when I was panicking that I'd never find work, a certain respectable translation agency, let's call it Translations Galore, offered me a certain project. Not having anything better at the time, I accepted. The pay was low, but still higher than their competitors, The Gang, were offering; it was easy – the stuff flowed from eyes to fingers to keyboard practically by itself; it was interesting; and it kept coming. In addition, my contact person there was really nice.

Time passed. I only do the occasional job for that agency. But I do have a soft spot for them. So when the girl in question calls me and begs me to translate an ad, I sometimes say yes.

Now, the terms are scandalous: the pay is lousy; turnaround time is between "right now", and "it's been 25 minutes, where the hell is that ad?!"; and the texts, well, you know what Israeli copywriting is like. Either awful or too wisecracking for its own good.

So I do what I can. Sometimes I'm inspired and the translation is good; sometimes I'm not inspired, and since there's no time to agonize, consult, or polish, I just do it and send it off. I have been an accomplice. Guilty as charged.

I can't help but wonder at the big, rich companies, who pay their advertising agencies a fortune to produce ads and place them in the printed media, yet don't give a hoot about the English version of those ads, and are apparently unwilling to pay for a professional translation or copywriting.

So next time you fume, snicker or laugh at a poor translation of an ad in an English-language Israeli newspaper, magazine or billboard, keep in mind that, often, the advertiser gets what it pays for.

* * *

Slightly different angle on the same subject:
I came across a large ad, in Hebrew, for a certain model of Toyota.
At the bottom of the ad, there were three short lines of text that looked like a slogan, yet fell so flat that I couldn't believe they were really supposed to be a slogan:

(Hayom, machar, Toyota)
A quick glance at Toyota pages on the Internet revealed that this is the literal translation of one of Toyota's tag lines, or catch phrases:

I find that in English it has quite a nice ring, or cadence.
Once again: The company must have paid a pretty penny to the company who came up with that slogan. The Israeli representative or agency must have paid a pretty shekel to place the Hebrew ad. Why on earth would they make do with such a silly literal translation of the slogan? If it's not important, why not just skip it; and if it is – do it properly.

A website needs your help

The other day I was translating, Hebrew > English, a very poorly written magazine article about antique cars . While I don't share collectors' passion for antique or vintage cars, I am a car-lover, and am generally interested in articles about cars. So I found it quite annoying that the writer managed to make such a mess of a potentially interesting subject. At some point I asked myself, who the .… is this journalist anyway, and proceeded to Google, promptly landing on the writer's website. Oy vey. I dare not say more. (Can honest criticism be labeled as libel?)
The style is pretentious, wordy, trite; the grammar flawed. And as for the one page in English – all I could do was roll my eyes at the literal translation.

Ordinarily, I'd just shrug it off as another poorly written website, one among so many. However, this one irked me because it purports to be a model of good writing, while in fact being a model of the exact opposite. It is not a personal blog or website; it is a commercial website; the Internet business card of a person who claims to be a professional writer, editor, copywriter, PR person, and "Hebrew-English-Hebrew" (sic!) translator.

A few examples, which I think speak for themselves:


• XYZ's long time involvement in the media includes journalism for newspapers, magazines and websites on a variety of the cultural aspects of life style phenomena and up to date social issues.
• Perception articles
• Scripts for perception clips and movies

Well, my perception is that this website needs help.

Miryam Blum, in her interesting talk at the ITA conference, proposed a way of getting new clients: find websites in your field of expertise and interest, and – if they need improving or translation -- call the person in charge and offer your services. Diplomatically, of course.

Does anyone feel up to phoning the owner of the website under discussion and offering to edit it? Somehow, I don't feel brave enough.

No More Sick Funds

Yay! Mazal Tov! An ad on the J. Post that's well-written! No mention of the name of the advertising agency, so I can't give them points. I'm talking about a huge ad by Perrigo Israel, entitled "Take it like a man…" Sensible visual. Clean colors. Good text. Though inconsistent punctuation: you gotta decide whether you place a period at the end of each bulleted text or not. I think the grammatical consensus is that you shouldn't. But inconsistency seems to me worse.

However, lest you should think that Perringo and/or the J. Post – whoever is responsible for the English text – got away with a clean sheet, please note the oval stamp saying "Available in Sick Funds at a reduced price".

Guys, there are no Sick Funds anymore, haven't you heard? Implying that we folks who go to the doctor's are "sick", or that the establishments taking our money are "sick funds" is a no-no. All erstwhile kupot holim are now called Healthcare Services, or Healthcare Service Providers, or the like. So be well. Stay healthy. And translate correctly.

Botox inherited?

One of the most distasteful and off-putting ad campaigns I've had the displeasure of encountering in the past year or two, is the one by cosmetician Ronit Raphael.
The series of ads shows good looking, locally well-known mothers-and-daughters (e.g. actress Mili Avital & her mother, Pilates guru Dalia Mantver & her daughter), and runs a slogan which I find offensive.
The Hebrew says:
כי דברים טובים מעבירים בירושה
[Transliteration: Ki dvarim tovim ma'avirim bi'yrusha]
I don't know if it's been officially translated into English. Basically, it means "because good things should be passed on to the next generation".

Excuse me, lady, what is it exactly that you are passing on to your daughter, and how? Do you mean by heredity, by education, or by bequeathing it to her?
Is it the phone number of your beautician, who has done such a wonderful plastic job on you that you'd like your daughter to enjoy the same?

Do you truly feel that filling your lips with Botox is something to be encouraged and made into a tradition to be passed on from mother to daughter ad infinitum?

What are these "dvarim tovim" (good things) that you are giving her? An appreciation of beauty, or of superficiality? You know, lady, she's got your genes whether you like it or not. It has nothing to do with Ms. Raphael or anyone else.
I suppose your real message to her is: Hey, kid, sorry I don't have chiseled features and a peaches-and-cream complexion to pass on to you… But I've got the next best thing: the name of a good plastic surgeon and an expensive beautician who's good at selling illusions in a jar. So no worries, kiddo; Grandma's amulet will protect you from the Evil Eye and this phone number will help you arrive at your final resting place looking plastic-perfect. Have a good life!

A case in point:
The latest addition to this campaign is writer Smadar Shir and her daughter. I first met Smadar Shir when she began writing for La'Isha magazine, over three decades ago. She was always a pretty woman. But in this most recent publicity picture, (J. Post, Feb. 26, p. 18) I hardly recognized her; her delicate upper lip had been plumped up in accordance with recent trends, making her look rather vulgar, in my opinion. As for the daughter – I have no idea what she really looks, or looked like. For all I know, the girl may have naturally puffy lips and her mom may have chosen to try and look like her. Whatever.

For someone else's take on the same subject, in Hebrew, see the second item down the page on the following link:

Botox is a registered trademark of Allergan Inc.